Monday, August 18, 2008

The New Ohio Poll and McCain's VP Choice

With Public Policy Polling's release of a new poll in Ohio last night, the current state of the presidential race took on a much closer feel. Let's look at yesterday's Electoral College Spectrum with that poll incorporated to get a better feel for the dynamics as they now stand.

The Electoral College Spectrum*
*Follow the link for a detailed explanation on how to read the Electoral College Spectrum.
**The numbers in the parentheses refer to the number of electoral votes a candidate would have if he won all the states ranked prior to that state. If, for example, McCain won all the states up to and including New Hampshire (all Obama's toss up states, but Michigan), he would have 299 electoral votes. Both candidates numbers are only totaled through their rival's toss up states. In those cases, Obama's number is on the left and McCain's is on the right in italics.
***Colorado is the state where Obama crosses (or McCain would cross) the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election. That state is referred to as the victory line

Wait, that looks exactly like yesterday's ECS. It does. That tie in the Buckeye state made the margin between Obama and McCain smaller there, but Ohio still slightly favors Obama. More importantly though, Colorado, Nevada and Ohio have inched closer to McCain of late, and those three states along with Virginia are the states upon which this race appears to be hinging at the moment. If either candidate gets all their current states outside of that four state block, they will need some combination of those four to break 270 electoral votes.

Here's where McCain's choice of a running mate comes into play. The Arizona senator could play offense in Colorado and Nevada by tapping Mitt Romney as his vice presidential nominee. The former Massachusetts governor would also help in his home state of Michigan. That potentially puts Obama in a real bind. McCain would be on the offensive in those two western states and Michigan and would have to play defense to hold on to Virginia, but wouldn't even "need" Ohio. Granted, if you look at the Spectrum, ceding Ohio and swinging Michigan to the right would cost McCain three electoral votes, but it would help him squeak by in the electoral college with a 271-267 advantage. And hey, Ohio is trending the Arizona senator's way.

Looking at the electoral college breakdown and vice presidential selection in that light makes me second-guess the pundits' thoughts about McCain's pro-choice running mate trial balloon in the Weekly Standard last week. Did that comment indicate Ridge and/or Lieberman or was it referring to someone who has moderated his views on the abortion question, Mitt Romney? There are certainly other issues surrounding Romney, but would his religious background affect the ticket enough to swing any states Obama's way? My first impression is that it would not, though some states (especially in the South) would be closer than they have been in the past. In the end, that is a razor-thin electoral college margin, but at this point, it looks like Romney may be able to do the most damage to Obama and the Democrats in the electoral college. What he brings to the table, is what helps McCain the most in the electoral college.

This swoon period will end for Obama with the effect the combination of a VP selection and the convention helping. Will that effect be muted by the GOP convention that follows on the heels of the Democrats', though? Suddenly, August looks to be a challenging month for the second consecutive cycle for the Democrats. If the race looks tied after whatever bounce the GOP convention gives McCain, then the debates will likely play a crucial role in deciding who will win this election in November.

Speaking of convention bumps, Thomas Holbrook has a post up on his blog now that looks at the effects of past conventions and glances ahead to the upcoming conventions.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (8/17/08)

Which States are Underpolled in the Presidential Race?

The Electoral College Map (8/14/08)


Robert said...

Selection of Romney as McCain's running mate would be a late birthday and an early Christmas gift to Obama. Willard is a very poor campaigner -- no candidate since John Connally has spent so much money for so little effect. Also, his religion eliminates Jeremiah Wright as an issue to be used against Obama. or some similar group will put together a video of statements by Mormon leaders over the last 10-20 years that will be just as damning as the Wright video, and pundits will ask how he could have remained a Mormon for all of his life in the light of all of these comments by church leaders.

Jack said...

Romney's religion can be an issue, yes, but I can't see ads being put out about it; I think they'd backfire, especially if they are similar to some of the attacks against Obama for his ties to Rev. Wright. Charges of hypocricy would fly, and voters would be reminded of Wright.

As for the positive effects on the ticket, Romney could help in Michigan, partly because of his ties to the state but also because of his economic credentials in a state where that is very important.

Nevada has a high LDS population (11%) but I would think almost all of them vote Republican anyway; still, Romney could only help with those voters. Colorado (2% LDS) also went convincingly for Romney, but I'm not sure if that's because he has some sort of appeal to Westerners or because he spent more time campaigning there than the other Republicans. I don't think he'll have more than a marginal effect in the West (granted, as I've indicated before, I'm generally skeptical of the idea that running mates can significantly help candidates).

Josh Putnam said...

I tend to fall in the "skeptical of VP effects" crowd as well. Recent history tells us that successful presidents in the electoral arena have chosen running mates from states already considered safe for their party. But in a close election a marginal difference in only a handful of states could make the difference. And Romney has the potential to make a difference in a greater number of these states between the Partisan and Victory lines than the other names mentioned on the GOP side of the veepstakes.

Jack said...

I can only think of two possibilities that could be at all helpful to McCain. Romney can help in Michigan, and a bit less in the West. A white woman such as Kay Bailey Hutchison might help pick off some of those disgruntled Clinton supporters and deflect attention from McCain's anti-choice positions (even if she is pro-life) and comments insensitive towards women.

Robert said...

I am not saying that the Obama campaign would run anti-Romney ads, but the 527s would if the Wright video shows back up this Fall. McCain has yet to condemn the Corsi book. This campaign is going to turn very nasty, and it will be even nastier if Romney or Clinton is named as a running mate.

Josh Putnam said...

Ooh, but what if both of them were named running mates? Now that would turn off some independents.

I thought Bayh's comments yesterday on Face the Nation regarding the Corsi book were humorous. Old John McCain would have denounced them, but new John McCain embraces it.

Anonymous said...

The election is going to come down to 3 states, Ohio,Nevada,Colorado.
Excluding those 3 states,McCain will win all Bush 2004 states except Iowa and New Mexico (both traditionally Democrat states).
Excluding Ohio,Nevada,Colorado, Obama will win all 2004 Kerry states plus Iowa and New Mexico.

The 3 closest state results in 2004 that are traditionally republican (Nevada,Colorado) and the 1 state I truly believe is a swing state (Ohio) are the states to watch on election day.
Plus, if Virginia's results come in BEFORE those 3 states and Obama takes Virginia then he wins, if McCain takes virginia then all eyes on Ohio,Nevada,Colorado.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

There is no question in my mind that by far the best choice for McCain's chances is Romney. I think this is one of those rare cases where he really can turn a key state: Michigan. Michigan seems to me like the political equivalent of punch drunk right now. The Democratic process was so weird and stressful that many voters are probably a little discouraged right now. The economy there is bad, and it's hallmark industry (autos), will be strongly influenced by details of the candidates' energy programs. Enough voters might latch on to the familiarity of a Romney to give McCain the state.

And yes, he helps around the edges with the mountain west, but McCain seems to have waded so deeply into local politics that it may be hard for him to win both Nevada and Colorado.

But this misses a big advantage of picking Romney: he gives the ticket economic cred without making it look like an admission of weakness. It would look like Romney had been picked because of the states he could carry, and because he did well in the primaries.

If there was a Democrat who had won several states in the primaries, was associated with a key swing state, and was a prominent veteran (military service is to Obama as corporate experience is to McCain), wouldn't he or she be a prohibitive favorite?

Jack said...

According to the New York Times, Obama will announce as early as Wednesday, and choose Biden, Bayh or Kaine. McCain might announce August 29.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Important news on Obama's VP choice:


If he's showcasing his VP pick on Saturday, he has to announce him or her between now and then. So no matter what, now, the announcement will be during the Olympics.

My bet is for Friday. The news will get out, even to Olympics viewers (there will doubtless be a "breaking news" update), but any critical response will get buried. By announcing Friday, there won't be a perceptible "VP bounce," it will just get rolled in to the usual slow build through the convention period.

Josh Putnam said...

Alright, it looks as if we have exhausted the Romney talk for the time being. Let's shift the VP prediction/timing discussion to a new post.

Give me a minute and I'll have that up.